NCRMP

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program

Monitoring Climate Driven Impacts on US Coral Reefs

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What We Do

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) is the largest monitoring program in the world designed to support the conservation of coral reef ecosystems. NCRMP provides consistent, sustained, and long‐term measurement of key indicators that gauge the status and trends of coral reef health. As part of NCRMP, AOML leads the in-situ climate change and ocean acidification monitoring for the Atlantic Ocean.

We work in collaboration with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle, Washington, and the Ecosystem Sciences Division of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) in Honolulu, Hawaii. The NCRMP climate monitoring was created to provide high-quality data to understand how a changing climate is impacting the nation’s coral reef ecosystems.

Who We Are

| Ian Enochs, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

| Nicole Besemer

Caribbean Climate Operations Coordinator

| Ana Palacio, Ph.D.

Assistant Scientist

| Alice Webb, Ph.D.

Post Doctoral Associate

| Michael Jankulak

Data Manager

| Kayelyn Simmon, Ph.D.

Oceanographer

| Albert Boyd

Coral Carbonate Chemist

| Ben Chomitz

Digital Morphology Technician

| Taylor Gill

Coral Program Intern

Exploring the Marine Environment in

The Dry Tortugas

Take a trip with us to one of the sentinel sites for the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program, the Dry Tortugas. We recently went out for maintenance and sampling at the site and we took videos to share along the way. Click the video to see our field journal and to get a first hand view of what it’s like to be aboard a scientific research cruise for coral monitoring.

Read More News

John Morris of AOML is diving to perform a transect survey of corals.
Congratulations to the Winners of 2022 Department of Commerce and NOAA Awards!
Two scuba divers move a brain coral underwater as part of a rescue operation
Staghorn coral fragments for heat stress experiment

Research Impacts & Key Findings

Understanding Coral Reef Ecosystems

The long-term and comprehensive study of coral reef ecosystems improves understanding of how coral reefs respond to changes in the environment over time and predict how they will fare when exposed to increasing sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, fishing, disease and pollution from land. AOML’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program has collected 8 years of data and leads the in-situ climate change and ocean acidification monitoring for the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico.

Creating Partnerships

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program is an integrated and focused monitoring effort developing and maintaining strong partnerships with federal, state/territory, academic and other partners across the U.S. The program collaborates with partners such as NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Coral Reef Watch, NOAA National Centers for Ocean and Coastal Science, the University of Virgin Islands, Environmental Moorings International, and and the National Park Service.

Status and Trends of U.S. Coral Reefs

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program provides a national-level assessment on the status and trends of U.S. coral reefs by providing a strategic framework for conducting sustained observations of biological, climatic, and socioeconomic indicators in U.S. states and territories. The resulting data provides a robust picture of the condition of U.S. coral reef ecosystems and the communities connected to them.

Critical High Impact Data

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program provides consistent, sustained, and long‐term measurement of key indicators that gauge the status and trends of coral reef health providing a greater understanding of how a changing climate is impacting the nation’s coral reef ecosystems.

Validation for Models

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program data are used in modeling efforts to predict the future effect of climate change on coral reefs. From 2014 to 2017, an unusually long global marine heatwave caused bleaching and mortality events from Guam to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since then, bleaching has become more frequent. Forecasting models can help predict the frequency and intensity of future coral bleaching events.

Detecting Changes in the Ocean

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Sites

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program’s climate component currently monitors sites in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, and the Flower Garden Banks. These locations are visited on a rotational basis with data beginning in 2013. See the most recent field report from the Dry Tortugas below.

Research Indicators

National Coral Reef Monitoring Program Indicators

We monitor many factors that can affect the health of coral reefs. We measure thermal stress, which is how corals handle rising temperatures, bioerosion which is a natural process where reef organisms slowly remove reef rock under living corals, and carbonate chemistry including ocean acidification which happens as the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We have unique methods for monitoring these indicators to assess ecosystem health. Click next to read more. 

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Monitoring Thermal Stress

 

Checca Bleaching. Image Credit, NOAA.

Thermal stress events in coral reefs are becoming more common and severe. These events can result in mass coral bleaching and mortality. AOML coral scientist use subsurface temperature recorders to monitors in situ temperature on the reefs.

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Monitoring Ecological Impacts with BMUs

 

Checca Bleaching. Image Credit, NOAA.

Bioerosion monitoring Units are used to monitor in situ bioerosion rates on coral reefs. Measuring ecological responses to climate changes allows the investigation of the relationship between biological response variables to both physical and chemical processes.

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Ocean Acidification and Carbonate Chemistry

 

Checca Bleaching. Image Credit, NOAA.

Ocean acidification can threaten coral reef accretion by reducing calcification rates in reef‐building organisms and by enhancing the bioerosion of the reef framework. Climate-NCRMP collects seawater carbon chemistry samples to assess the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA).

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Sentinel Ocean Acidification site at Cheeca Rocks

The AOML coral program moored autonomous pCO2 (MApCO2) buoy that measures the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in seawater, temperature, salinity, and pH every three hours and relays these data in near-real-time to the PMEL where they are publicly available online at PMEL’s Coral Reef Moorings website. These efforts are part of and adhere to the data quality requirements of the larger Global Ocean Acidification Monitoring Network. Some of the key ecosystem variables being measured at each MapCO2 buoy site to gauge the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification are: 1) ecosystem and species-specific calcification rates; 2) calcium carbonate budgets; and 3) rates of bioerosion.

Driving Innovative Science with

Landscape Mosiacs

Landscape mosaics document a visual representation of coral cover and benthic structure at a specific time period. Coral cover is quantified and compared between each mosaic. Landscape mosaics are collected by taking many underwater images and stitching them together.

Featured Publication

Front page of the featured scientific publication

John T. Morris, Ian C. Enochs, et al.

Coral reef habitat is created when calcium carbonate production by calcifiers exceeds removal by physical and biological erosion. Carbonate budget surveys provide a means of quantifying the framework-altering actions of diverse assemblages of marine species to determine net carbonate production, a single metric that encapsulates reef habitat persistence. In this study, carbonate budgets were calculated for 723 sites across the Florida Reef Tract (FRT) using benthic cover and parrot fish demographic data from NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program, as well as high resolution LiDAR topobathymetry. Results highlight the erosional state of the majority of the study sites, with a trend towards more vulnerable habitat in the northern FRT, especially in the Southeast Florida region (− 0.51 kg CaCO3m−2 year−1), which is in close proximity to urban centers. Detailed comparison of reef types reveals that mid-channel reefs in the Florida Keys have the highest net carbonate production (0.84 kg CaCO3 m−2 year− 1) and indicates that these reefs may be hold-outs for reef development throughout the region. This study reports that Florida reefs, specifically their physical structure, are in a net erosional state. As these reefs lose structure, the ecosystem services they provide will be diminished, signifying the importance of increased protections and management efforts to offset these trends.

Download the full paper

Low Net Carbonate Accretion Characterizes Florida’s Coral Reef

John T. Morris, Ian C. Enochs, et al.

Coral reef habitat is created when calcium carbonate production by calcifiers exceeds removal by physical and biological erosion. Carbonate budget surveys provide a means of quantifying the framework-altering actions of diverse assemblages of marine species to determine net carbonate production, a single metric that encapsulates reef habitat persistence. In this study, carbonate budgets were calculated for 723 sites across the Florida Reef Tract (FRT) using benthic cover and parrot fish demographic data from NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program, as well as high resolution LiDAR topobathymetry. Results highlight the erosional state of the majority of the study sites, with a trend towards more vulnerable habitat in the northern FRT, especially in the Southeast Florida region (− 0.51 kg CaCO3m−2 year−1), which is in close proximity to urban centers. Detailed comparison of reef types reveals that mid-channel reefs in the Florida Keys have the highest net carbonate production (0.84 kg CaCO3 m−2 year− 1) and indicates that these reefs may be hold-outs for reef development throughout the region. This study reports that Florida reefs, specifically their physical structure, are in a net erosional state. As these reefs lose structure, the ecosystem services they provide will be diminished, signifying the importance of increased protections and management efforts to offset these trends.

Download the full paper

Front page of the featured scientific publication

Publications & References

  • Click to Expand List

    Manzello, D. P., Kolodziej, G., Kirkland, A., Besemer, N., & Enochs, I. C. (2021). Increasing coral calcification in Orbicella faveolata and Pseudodiploria strigosa at Flower Garden Banks, Gulf of Mexico. Coral Reefs, 1-15.
    Paper

    Hu, X., M.F. Nuttall, H. Wang, H. Yao, C.J. Staryk, M.M. McCutcheon, R.J. Eckert, J.A. Embresi, M.A. Johnston, E.L. Hickerson, G.P. Schmahl, D.P. Manzello, I.C. Enochs, S. DiMarco, and L. Barbero. Seasonal variability of carbonate chemistry and decadal changes in waters of a marine sanctuary in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Chemistry, 205:16-28, doi:10.1016/j.marchem.2018.07.006 2018 FY2018. Paper

    Manzello, D. P., Enochs, I. C., Kolodziej, G., & Carlton, R. (2015). Recent decade of growth and calcification of Orbicella faveolata in the Florida Keys: an inshore-offshore comparison. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 521, 81-89. Paper

    Manzello, D. P., Enochs, I. C., Melo, N., Gledhill, D. K., & Johns, E. M. (2012). Ocean acidification refugia of the Florida Reef Tract. PloS one, 7(7), e41715. Paper

U.S. Coral Reefs Status Report

NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program Releases 2020 Coral Reef Status Report

In Fall 2020, NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) released the National Status Report for U.S. Coral Reefs. The Coral Reef Conservation Program supports the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program throughout the U.S. Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coral reef areas. 

The report provides a high-level overview – capturing the time period from 2012-2018 – of coral reef health for all of the U.S. coral reefs in the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The report is the culmination of a five-year collaboration between CRCP, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Integration and Application Network, and numerous partners in every jurisdiction from state and territorial governments, academia and non-governmental organizations.

Funding Sources and Partners

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